In The News: HCM Focus Group Study Finds Parents Conflicted About a Return to the Classroom

By Nicole Brown -

The National PTA, in partnership with HCM Strategists and Edge Research, released its results of a national survey and listening sessions that reveal parents’ mindsets on COVID-19 safety guidance and protocols and their expectations and concerns as children return to school. 

“The survey and listening sessions demonstrate that parents are continuing to juggle multiple worries as their children are returning to school. From concerns about their children contracting COVID-19 and future disruptions to their academics to concerns about their children’s mental, social and emotional health, parents are trying to ensure their children can still learn and benefit from in-person instruction while keeping them safe and healthy,” said Anna King, president of National PTA. “The survey and listening sessions underscore the critical importance of truly meeting parents where they are during this unprecedented time and making sure their voices and perspectives are heard.”

Only half the parents surveyed stated they wanted their child to return to in-person learning this fall. That number dropped to 43% after July 27, when the CDC’s updated guidance was released and the Delta variant spread more rapidly across the country. White parents were also more likely to want their children back in-person than Black and Hispanic parents.

In the survey, 60% of parents reported being somewhat or a lot worried about their children contracting COVID-19 at school and getting sick, followed by 58% of parents who reported being worried their children will contract the virus and get a family member sick. More than half of parents (58%) also reported being worried about future disruptions to their children’s learning.

When asked which recommendations are most and very important for schools to put in place to help keep children safe, 87% of parents indicated children staying home when they are sick, 86% of parents said cleaning and disinfecting, and 85% of parents said handwashing, followed by 77% of parents who indicated ventilation, 76% who said contact tracing and quarantine, 75% who said masking and 70% who said social distancing. Parents are least supportive of recommendations that group or separate students by their vaccination status, with 49% of parents indicating that this is most and very important.

HCM Strategists

Our K-12 team, led by HCM principal Cindi Williams, director Erica Gray and senior affiliate Chris Mathias, spearheaded this project for the National PTA, the CDC Foundation and in collaboration with Edge Research. 

About the Survey

The online survey was conducted by Edge Research among a nationwide sample of 1,448 parents and guardians with children in grades K-12 in public school. The survey, fielded in English and Spanish, included oversamples of Latino/a parents representing a mix of acculturation levels and Black parents. Data were weighted to be representative of public-school parents in the U.S. The survey was fielded July 23- August 8, 2021. Click here to read the full survey results. 

About the Listening Sessions

Nine hour-long listening sessions were conducted across 9 states between July 12 – August 18, 2021. Seven sessions were conducted in English and two sessions were conducted in Spanish. Listening session participants represented a mix of gender, race and ethnicity. The listening sessions were designed to serve as a companion to the national survey to bring the survey to life with stories, verbatims and observations that capture where parents are at this moment in time. Click here to view the final listening sessions focus group report.

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